"What information can you give me about Christmas crackers?" One of our patrons was interested in making her own Christmas crackers for a party favor, and wanted to be able to give her guests some information on their history.
We found several websites with the information we needed, including , and . Invented by Tom Smith in 1847, Christmas crackers are popular in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and other Commonwealth countries. The crackers are made from a cardboard tube wrapped in paper and filled with small prizes. The tube also contains a small strip of chemically treated paper so that the cracker makes a small "bang" when pulled apart. Smith was inspired to add the sound effect after hearing the crackle of a log on the fire. He originally called his creation "Cosaques," because the sound reminded him of Cossacks cracking their whips.
While avid Harry Potter fans may remember the "wizard crackers" present at the Hogwarts Christmas dinner, containing elaborate hats, enchanted chess sets, and pet mice, most crackers contain a paper crown, a printed joke, and a small toy. However, luxury crackers have also been produced, filled with jewelry and gold coins. The crowns are said to hearken back to either the Magi or the Roman celebration of Saturnalia.
For more information on Christmas traditions, "The World Encyclopedia of Christmas" by Gerry Bowler, "Encyclopedia of Christmas & New Year's Celebrations" by Tanya Gulevich, and "Christmas! Traditions, Celebrations and Food Across Europe" by Stella Ross Collins are all available at the Newton Falls Public Library.